Moved back to Namber Drome.
We set up in the hills at the northeast end of the drome. The
Japanese had built excellent defensive positions here. They had
bunkers connected by trenches. Vines were tied to stakes as guides
for night movement. In a cave behind the hill was a large amount of
equipment. There was fur lined clothing and knapsacks with animal
hair still attached to the outside of the sacks. They had snafu’s
What a relief to have fires at
night and smoke anytime you wanted to. Some of the first smokes
lasted all night. We had our first baths since leaving Inasi
Village. That was 16 July. After we bathed we itched. It
was irritating. Our skin was even red as from a rash. Then,
too, the flies tried to eat us up. They had not been particularly
noticeable before we bathed. When you get too dirty for flies you
are dirty. It really took a couple of days to get used to being
clean. There were big springs at the base of the hill near the
coast, so water was plentiful.
The first night, or there about, a
lone Jap twin engine Betty Bomber flew up the strip as passed near us.
It dropped no bombs and fired no guns. We could plainly see the
pilots face because a light was on in the cockpit. This was the only
Jap plane I saw during the entire Noemfoor operation.
We now found out more about what
happened to "D" and "E" Companies. "D" Company had been sent on
patrol with the intentions of going directly from Inasi Village to Hill
670 following an azimuth. Joe Whitson’s 1st platoon of "E" Company
was sent on a patrol north to Ridge 200 area. He reported a large
enemy bivouac area there. McCaffery’s platoon from "E" Company was
out on patrol, so Capt. Sam Smith took Luscomb’s platoon north to join
Whitson’s force. After an hour he was passing over a steep, heavily
wooded hill on the trail we had twice used. This area appeared
dangerous to us. A large enemy force struck Smith’s force in the
rear. Then an enemy force attacked his front. He was
surrounded. All the fighting elements of the 2nd Battalion were in
the field. All other friendly forces were on their own missions in
other parts of the island. Whitson was ordered to return down the
trail to Inasi Village to relieve the Smith force. Lt. Meade was
ordered to return from his position near Hill 670 and go to the relief of
E Company. Whitson’s force was ambushed coming out of the garden area.
According to what Joe Whitson told
me, there were eleven Japs in the force that attempted to ambush his
platoon. The scouts spotted the ambush on the right side of the
trail and passed the word back. On Joe’s signal the men of his
platoon wheeled and charged into the Japs, firing. They killed nine
Japs with two escaping. Whitson killed the last Jap himself, tearing
up his carbine in the process. When Joe jumped over a low embankment
the Jap crouching behind it grabbed him around the legs hanging on with
one hand and pounded a grenade on the ground with the other hand trying to
arm the grenade. Evidently he intended to kill Whitson along with
himself. During this time Joe is battering the Jap in the head with
butt strokes from his carbine. I never did like these light toys and
usually carried an M-1 rifle. Some of Joe’s men gathered and watched
the show which did not amuse Joe. Finally they dispatched the Jap.
Joe’s carbine stock was completely splintered. He ended up beating
the Jap with the barrel.
This ambush defense was exactly as
taught in the Australian Jungle Warfare School. It was a classic
example of what the Aussies meant that when facing a well-trained and
alert force, the ambushers have the disadvantage. On account of the
presence of more enemy troops in the area Whitson’s force had to proceed
with caution and was unable to effect a speedy relief of Smith’s forces.
In the meantime "D" Company
started straight across country to Smith’s relief. As they started
up a hill 15-20 Japs entrenched on top of the hill opened
fire. 2nd Lt. Long led a charge to take the position and was killed
along with Pvt. Lee. The hour was late so the company withdrew and
bivouacked for the night. At dawn they attacked the Jap position.
The Japs were ready and waiting. 1st Lt. Vandivort and Sgt.
Ray Eubanks were killed, however, Eubanks had taken the position
single-handedly, but he was killed. There were twenty-three dead
Japs in the position. Eubanks had picked up a BAR and charged up the
kill firing until the trigger mechanism was shot off the BAR. He
then used the bar as a club. When the action was over the Japs
including a machinegun crew were dead. The tragic part was that Sgt.
Eubanks died too.
Back to Sam Smith’s trapped unit,
they had dug in for the night with their bare hands and steel helmets.
Due to the coral and difficulty of digging there were very few entrenching
tools being carried. They were extra, cumbersome baggage. To
everyone’s amazement and great relief the Japs unaccountably withdrew
about 09:30 the next morning. They counted twenty dead Japs in the
heavy brush around their position. Pfc Toupal was KIA. Pvt
Frinswald was missing, and Cpl Alfred was wounded.